May 6, 2010

Paddle Your Way to Another World

The Black River and Willow Flowage are Wisconsin’s most alluring paddling opportunities

KayakingThere’s something about a canoeing or kayaking adventure that transports a paddler to a different time and place. Something about the simple watercraft combined with the rhythm of the paddle and the natural surroundings makes paddling a true escape from reality.

For the paddler looking to really get away from it all, you can’t do better than the Black River in western Wisconsin and the Willow Flowage in the Northwoods.

Perched at the northernmost reaches of Wisconsin’s driftless country — a geological region of the state that was left unaffected by the steamroller effect of the glaciers — Black River Country combines elements of the un-glaciated region and the Northwoods to create a scenic variety that is unmatched.  This beautiful part of Wisconsin takes its name from the Black River, which flows for 160 miles to its confluence with the Mississippi River.

In the section of the Black River near Black River Falls, the river cuts its way through a rugged and picturesque wilderness, offering wide bends, scenic rock outcroppings and numerous sandbars.

The sandbars are one of the many reasons why paddlers love this river. A sandbar in the middle of the Black River is the perfect place for camping, picnicking or soaking up rays and sunbathing away the afternoon. Up and down the river, you’ll find these inviting bits of sandy real estate.

Popular paddling routes on the Black River range from two to five hours. Paddlers who are in no rush and want to camp along the way could spend several days or even a week on the river.

If you’re an angler, you’ll want to bring your fishing rod. The smallmouth bass fishing on the Black River is fantastic. Northern pike and musky also inhabit river—so be ready for a fight.

If you’re looking for an unforgettable paddling trip, head to the Black River this summer. Find more information on paddling the beautiful Black River at

Autumn Sunrise, Oneida County, WIFor a very different paddling experience, head north. In heavily forested, highly-undeveloped region west of Rhinelander, the 6,400-acre Willow Flowage spreads out across the wilderness in a series of lakes, pools and backwaters.

For those looking for a “Boundary Waters” type paddling experience, the Willow Flowage Scenic Waters Area is an affordable alternative to taking the drive up to the Canadian border. Paddlers on the Willow Flowage can access 117 islands that dot the waters and 35 remote, semi-primitive campsites that are available to paddlers on a first come, first serve basis.

Walleye, musky, crappie, largemouth and smallmouth bass and northern pike are found throughout the flowage. Deer, bald eagles, beaver, loons and blue heron flourish in this protected natural area. While some powerboats are present on the Willow Flowage, boat access to the flowage is somewhat limited. In general, paddlers will not feel pressured by boat traffic. Overall, it’s an excellent paddling destination. Best of all, there are no fees or registration to use the campsites.

Get complete information for planning a trip to Willow Flowage by visiting

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